Sirens screamed through the ship. Multiple contacts, dropping out of warp, almost dead ahead. Seven of them, Axanar light cruisers. Probably returning from a raid of their own, on Earth territory.
Hernandez fought down her feelings of panic. They were outnumbered, and although an Earth frigate out-gunned an Axanar light cruiser, it wasn't by much. And each enemy ship had more fire-power than her small destroyer. Still, surprise was on the humans side, and if the Axanar ships had sacrificed torpedoes for range, as the Earth ships had, that might improve the odds a little.
She felt a kick in the back as the thrusters went to combat power. Looks like I get a fight after all
. A text message popped up on her display. They were not going to try to evade. When the Axanar discovered their station had been destroyed they'd go to full alert. So they would try to punch straight through the enemy forces before they knew they were there.
It almost worked. The first volley of torpedoes from the Eisenhower managed to close the range before being detected. Two Axanar ships were hit, badly enough to take them out of the fight. By the time the second volley arrived, along with the Patton's last four torpedoes, the Axanar had their ECM up. Only five of the eight hit, doing damage, but no knock out blows. And now the enemy were fighting back.
The frigates may have drawn first blood, but it was the destroyers racing forward. Partly this was to close the gap so their own weapons could come to bare. Mainly it was to protect the larger ships by providing a more obvious target.
A crash like thunder screamed through the D-32 as it lurched sickeningly to port. Hernandez was tossed around like a discarded rag doll, only her safety web preventing injury from smashing into the walls of her cabin. The lights flared then faded, replaced by the crimson glow of the emergency lanterns. Her viewscreen dissolved into static, and fragments of voices hissed through the intercom. Casualty reports. Damage reports.
She shook her head to clear it, piecing the facts together from what she heard. They'd been hit. Sensors suggested they'd been caught by the heavy laser used on Axanar light cruisers. Must have been a glancing blow. Thor class destroyers were lightly armoured. A direct hit could have sliced them in half.
Her screen was still blank. She hit the restart switch, and again. It came to life, a wire frame tactical display of the combat zone. Where the hell is the D-19? It should be...oh no.
No identifying beacon showed, but a tumbling metallic shape occupied it's last known position. Dead in space...
The symbol for her own ship was now perilously close to an Axanar vessel. It was manoeuvring in front of them to block their escape. Fortunately it's current aspect meant it couldn't bring it's main batteries to bear, but once in position it'd only take a few moments to reorientate itself. The tactical display would do no good; she hit the keys to bring up her targeting system. For a split second the status board for her turret mounted plasma cannon came up, before being replaced by that for the main gun. That was a bad sign. On this ship she was secondary gunner. If she had access to the main guns then something must have happened to the chief gunner.
No time to consider that now. The Axanar cruiser was near dead ahead, right in her sights. She hit the intercom, asking permission to fire, getting a 'hell yes' back before she'd even finished speaking.
At close range a Thor could punch above it's weight. The ship itself was built round the Mjollnir quad barrelled railgun. It was the only ship to carry such a weapon, the size and bulk of which made it impractical to fit into a turret. Only a ship fast and manoeuvrable enough to aim itself at the enemy could hope to use it effectively.
She toggled the selector over to KEAP--Kinetic Energy Armour Piercing--and selected an aim point near the rear of the target ship. Mjollnir rail guns could only fire forward in a very narrow cone. Manipulating the magnetic fields as the projectile left the barrel allowed a small amount of fine tuning, but otherwise they were locked straight ahead. Fortunately their current course had the ships aft within the field of fire. Intel suggested that main engineering was located about a third of the way between the lateral sensor pallet and the impulse emitters, so Hernandez carefully layered the cartwheeling sight over the likeliest spot and squeezed the trigger.
Four barrels. Each spewing one 328 gramme projectile every two seconds. Staggered, so a little packet of death departed at half second intervals. Each launch sending tremors through the destroyer. Not recoil, even at over ten kilometres a second the projectiles had too little mass to significantly affect the ship. It was the electromagnets themselves, bucking and thrashing within the weapon as they strained against the very forces they created. Even with cushioning the shock waves carried to the rest of the ship. It was this vibration, coupled with the ship's cylindrical shape, that had given the Thor the nickname 'sex toy of the gods'.
She released the trigger, waiting a moment to let her eyes refocus after the tremors. It looked like there was considerable damage to the target point, but the Axanar vessel itself was operational. In a moment they'd be past it and on their way to the exit point, but with it still active they'd be running a high risk. They'd be in it's rear weapons arc for several long seconds, time enough for it to return fire.
Only time for one last shot. She flipped the selector to KEF, fired a sustained burst at the same spot. The Kinetic Energy Fragmentation rounds would be ineffective against the armoured outer shell, but if she could get just a few of them under that armour, they might do some serious damage. They were designed to break apart on impact, releasing a swarm of projectiles that, whilst too weak to work against outer armour, should rip through interior bulkheads, machinery, and crew, ricocheting around inside confined spaces to do even more harm.
And then they were past, the enemy ship no longer in her fire arc. She switched to the turret mounted plasma cannon, swing it aft to continue her attack. After loosing a couple of rounds she stopped, her target clearly no longer a threat. Secondary explosions cooked off within the hull, sending fountains of molten metal into the void. She scanned the sky fo another target just as the warp initiation chimes sounded. Her last view of the battlefield was of the Patton desperately clawing it's way past two Axanar ships. Then the ships, the planet and the star system itself hurled themselves into the distance.
She offered a prayer of thanks. They'd gotten away.
UES Enterprise. Orbiting Galador V.
October 23rd 2151.
"...and after another five weeks of travel, we limped home. The Eisenhower had gotten there slightly ahead of us. We waited and waited, but no other ship returned. Afterwards, months of physical therapy. Those survival rations can keep you alive but only just. Inquiries, after action reports...quite a few of us were of the opinion that if Howell hadn't wasted his torpedoes on the station he could have gotten his ship past the Axiees. But his father was high up in the Admiralty, so that never made it to the official report." Hernandez leant back, scooping up a dollop of ketchup with her last fry. Oddly enough she felt better for having told the story.
Moshiri gestured to the distant destroyer with her fork. "So this is the D-11, right? The one your friends were on?
"I don't suppose there's any chance they could have survived? Gotten to that Earth type world, maybe?"
Hernandez sighed deeply. "I'd like that, I really would. But our ships were too small to have life pods. We relied on our space suits to keep us safe. And without engines there's no way to make it there. There was only a twenty four hour air supply. Now the Patton did have life pods. But as we didn't even know there was a habitable world in this system back then, they'd have no reason to even head in that direction. No. No, I can't see anyone surviving, not realistically."
Moshiri nodded slowly, agreeing with her reasoning even as she wished it wasn't so. "I'm sorry ma'am. I think you're right, I don't think anyone could have survived."
Hernandez starred at her plate for a moment, before abruptly straightening up, throwing of her despondency by sheer will. She offered a brittle smile. "Sorry to bend your ear like this. Guess I needed to get it off my chest."
"That's alright ma'am. Any time."
Later that night, as she was drifting off to sleep, a wisp of a thought wandered through Hernandez's mind. We didn't know about that Earth type world, so of course our life pods wouldn't have gone there. But did the Axanar know?
But it was a fleeting thought, and by morning, it had gone.